migron - Haaretz - August 3 2011
The West Bank outpost of Migron. Photo by Haaretz
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The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the state must destroy Migron, the largest outpost in the West Bank. Forty-five families live in Migron, which has a total population of 280 people.

The case at the Supreme Court had been pending since 2006. Peace Now - along with Palestinian owners of private property in the settlement where homes were built - filed a petition with the court asking that an order to raze the structures be enforced.

This marks the first ruling by the Supreme Court on dozens of petitions demanding the razing of outposts in the territories. Until now, the court's policy has been to allow the state to take the lead on resolving the issue. Justices generally have agreed to the state's requests to delay the razing of outposts, and also to granting time so that policy can be formulated with a solution in mind.

The petition to have the homes razed has gone through a number of stages during the past five years. Initially, the state argued that "the outpost was built several years ago on private Palestinian land and its existence over a long time cannot be legally accepted. No one had the authority to authorize construction of the outpost on this location."

The state decided that the outpost must be evacuated by August 2008, but the Yesha Council of settlements negotiated with the state and reached a compromise on Migron: The razing of the outpost would be delayed until the state built a new neighborhood in the nearby settlement of Adam for the Migron settlers.

The process was delayed, and more homes were built at Migron. During the deliberations held at the Supreme Court last week, it was noted that what was intended as a two-year delay turned out to be indefinite.

In its ruling, a panel of three justices - headed by Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch - explained that the case of Migron was one of the most difficult and unusual ones to decide.

"This was about an outpost illegally constructed on private land, which the state too agreed should be evacuated," Beinisch wrote. "There is no dispute between the petitioners and the state that the outpost sits on private and recognized Palestinian land, and that the outpost was built without permission. Moreover, the work for establishing the outpost and expanding it was done with disregard to the orders to raze it."

The court ruled that by March 31, 2012, the state must complete the evacuation of Migron. While recognizing the difficulties involved in the evacuation of such a large outpost, the court called on the state "not to drag its feet in enforcing the law, especially when it [the state] does not dispute this obligation."